Posted on November 2, 2023
Texas is an at-fault state for motor vehicle accident claims. This means that, when someone is injured in a car or truck accident, the insurance company of the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying their medical bills, lost wages, and other losses. But what if the injured party also contributed to the accident?
In this article, we are going to discuss how fault is determined in car accidents that happen within the State of Texas. You will learn how fault is determined in a car accident, from fully at-fault situations to partial fault (partially at-fault) cases. All of this falls under the process of comparative negligence and it can greatly impact your personal injury claim.
So, what’s comparative negligence?
We’re glad you asked. Comparative negligence, also called comparative fault, is a principle described under Texas law as “proportionate responsibility.” In injury cases, this law states:
- A claimant may not recover damages if their percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent.
- If their percentage of fault is not greater than 50 percent, the claimant is eligible to recover damages, but their award will be reduced by a percentage equal to their percentage of responsibility.
Simply put, this means that if you’re only partially to blame for an accident, Texas law allows you to seek compensation as long as you are less than 51% responsible.
Here’s an example:
- Driver A and Driver B get into a car accident.
- Driver A is injured and has losses totaling $100,000.
- Driver A files a personal injury lawsuit against Driver B.
- During trial, the court determines that Driver B is 80% at fault for the accident because they were texting and driving BUT the court also determines that Driver A was 20% at fault because they were speeding.
- As a result, Driver A’s award is reduced by 20% (or $20,000). Their total compensation recovered is now $80,000.
In this example, Driver A is still able to recover compensation from Driver B because their percentage of fault is less than 50%. But if Driver A was greater than 50% at fault, they would not be able to recover any damages from Driver B (even if it was as low as 51%).
Comparative fault, or comparative negligence, can come up in almost any type of personal injury case, from vehicle accidents to premises liability.
How Insurance Companies Use Comparative Fault In Injury Claims
Technically, proportionate responsibility law in Texas applies only to personal injury lawsuits and the judges and juries that decide them. It is not legally binding on insurance companies when they are evaluating a bodily injury claim and a possible settlement.
But many insurance companies use a more informal version of comparative fault to assign blame between drivers on a percentage basis. Knowing that the case could end up in court, and making sure their bases are covered if it does, insurance companies take into consideration the laws of the state where the claim arises. So while they aren’t legally compelled to, insurers are likely to follow the comparative fault doctrine, at least to a rough extent.
When a claim is submitted to an insurer, they perform an investigation of the accident and make a determination of fault. The insurance company then makes the injured party an offer based on what they believe is the amount of negligence of its insured. If the insurance company concludes that its insured is less than 50% at fault for the accident, they may not offer to pay the injured party any damages. Or, they could decide that their insured is only partly at fault, and as a result, offer a reduced settlement.
You can probably already see where this line of reasoning is going. It is in the insurance company’s interest to shift blame from the insured to the injured party, because doing so reduces their payout. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to deny and underpay claims. Their business model depends on it. Comparative negligence is part of Texas law, but it can also be a tool in the hands of the insurance company used to shortchange injury victims.
Don’t Take The Blame For An Accident That Wasn’t Your Fault
Comparative negligence, as they pertain to personal injury cases, should not be ignored. While some accident cases are cut and dried, there is often some level of blame to go around. But the question of how much blame should go around is often a very complicated process. And in serious injury cases, even a small percentage of blame that is improperly assigned to you could mean the difference between winning and losing out on a significant amount of compensation.
We Recommend Hiring An Attorney
It’s often the little things that make a huge impact, especially when it comes to personal injury cases. Our team of lawyers here doesn’t just bring their A-game; they’re meticulous, resilient, savvy, and have a track record that speaks volumes. Relying on the whims of an insurance company? That’s a gamble you don’t want to take. And entrusting your case to a law firm that’s all talk and no results? Definitely a no-go.
At Jim Adler & Associates, we’ve spent over 50 years in the trenches, serving thousands of clients and recovering a staggering sum of over a billion dollars. We’re not just here to represent you; we’re here to ensure you get every penny of what you rightfully deserve.
Consultations are ALWAYS FREE. Contact us today.